Friday, May 22, 2015

Memorial Day

Patriots Memorial is dedicated to the memory of the eleven students and alumni who lost their lives in the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The plaque is mounted on a piece of Indiana limestone that was recovered from the Pentagon’s west fa├žade. It reads:

In Memory of Naval War College Students and Alumni Who Gave Their Lives While Serving the Nation
CAPT Gerald F. DeConto, USN
LCDR Robert R. Elseth, USNR
CAPT Lawrence D. Getzfred, USN
Ms. Angela M. Houtz, DON
LCDR Patrick J. Murphy, USNR
LT Jonas M. Panik, USNR
CAPT Jack D. Punches, USN (Ret.)
CDR Robert A. Schlegel, USN
CDR Dan F. Shanower, USN
MAJ Kip P. Taylor, USA
CAPT John D. Yamnicky, Sr., USN (Ret.)

The Pentagon, Washington D.C.
September 11, 2001

Major Taylor was posthumously promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

As we head in to Memorial Day Weekend, we take a moment to recognize all the Naval War College graduates who have given their lives in service to their country.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Friday, May 8, 2015

On This Day in History: V-E Day

Newport Navalog, Vol. 45, No. 19, p.1
Naval Historical Collection
Newspaper Collection 9, Box 10

Today marks the seventieth anniversary of Germany’s surrender to the Allies during World War II. Like most places in the United States, the celebration at Newport Naval Training Station was muted. The Newport Navalog described the moment when the news broke as one of “qualified happiness,” tempered by the understanding that the war with Japan was still far from over. The commanding officer of the Training Station, Commodore Clinton E. Braine, encouraged base personnel to attend worship services, but in all other respects, normal work routines continued. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest J. King emphasized that now was not the time to pause and celebrate, but rather to redouble the nation’s efforts to defeat Japan and end the war for good. King had already stated that the Navy would not demobilize following Germany’s surrender, and that personnel stationed in Europe would be transferred to the Pacific after V-E Day (Victory in Europe).

Newport Navalog, Vol. 45, No. 19, p.8
Naval Historical Collection
Newspaper Collection 9, Box 10

Looking back on this time from the safe distance of 70 years, it can be hard to fully understand the sense of dread that many sailors felt at the prospect of transferring to the Pacific theater. The war would actually end in just three more months, but of course nobody knew that in May 1945. High level planners assumed that the Allies would have to invade the Japanese mainland in order to force a surrender. The Joint Chiefs of Staff estimated that American forces would suffer 1.2 million casualties conducting such an operation. The expectation that the most difficult fighting of the war still lay ahead made for very muted celebrations indeed when newspapers announced that Germany had been defeated.

Newport Navalog articles courtesy of the Naval Historical Collection

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

8 Bells Lecture Series - May and June Lectures

The format of the Eight Bells Lecture Series has the author speaking about 40-45 minutes on the topic of his book and the facts leading to its publication. The last 15-20 minutes are given over for audience members to ask questions on the topic.  Those who are able to remain after the allotted hour can stay and discuss the book further and have the book signed. Copies of the books will be on sale in the Naval War College Foundation Store. As always, this event is a brown-bag affair which h is free and open to the public.  Call 401-841-4052 for more information. 

7 May 2015: The Purge of the Thirtieth Division by Maj. Gen. Henry Dozier Russell; edited and presented by Lawrence Kaplan 
In the lead-up to World War II, eighteen National Guard division commanders were called upon to train and lead 300,000 men.  By the end of the war, all but one had been relieved in a systematic policy by senior, regular Army officers to replace Guardsmen with regular officers.  The book offers a unique historical insight into the mobilization and offers a scathing indictment of the senior war planners during the war, including the Army Chief of Staff, George Marshall.

14 May 2015: Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff by William M. Miller 
This is a biography of one of the most influential, early contributor to aviation.  Eugene Ely taught himself to fly and by 1910 was a member of the Curtiss Exhibition Team.  It was that year that his plane was lifted onto USS Birmingham an he made the first takeoff from the deck of a naval vessel.  Two months later, on 18 January 1911, he made the first aircraft landing on the USS Pennsylvania.  A short while later he took off from that same deck, proving the adaptability of airplanes to operations at sea. 

21 May 2015: The Baltimore Sabotage Cell by Dwight Messimer   
The Imperial German Navy lacked the means to cut the British supply line with the United States.  One option was to build more U-boats.  The other option to stop the flow of goods was to attack the sources of the manufactured goods by sabotaging munitions factories, depots, and shipping.   There were over fifty successful acts of sabotage on the East Coast prior to April 1917.  Baltimore was the key city to their plan.

4 June 2015: A Handful of Bullets by Harlan Ullman 
The author traces several contemporary crises back to the legacy of the First World War which began as a result of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.  Offering provocative challenges to modern, conventional wisdom, he argues that the United States needs to strategically address these twenty-first-century realities.

11 June 2015: South Pacific Cauldron by Alan Rems 
Alan Rems takes the reader into the unsung regions of World War II.  Through his in-depth research, he presents the stories of Japanese and allied personnel in struggles no less brutal than the much heralded battlefields of Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.  Photographs and maps enhance the telling of these stories.

John Kennedy
Director of Education and Community Outreach

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Honoring All Who Serve—U-853 Propellers at the Naval War College: 70th Anniversary of the Sinking of U-853

            The Naval War College has placed on display the propellers from the World War German submarine U-853, which was sunk in action off Block Island on 5 May 1945.  At that point the war in Europe was nearing its end and all German submarines had been ordered to cease hostilities and ordered to return to their bases, with the formal surrender scheduled for 8 May 1945.  Until that time, however, U.S. naval forces remained on alert for possible U-boat activity as intelligence sources indicated the presence of submarines in the local vicinity that may or may not have received their orders.
            Their vigilance was rewarded on 5 May, two days before the cessation of hostilities in the Atlantic, when a collier, MV Black Point, was torpedoed.  Coast Guard and naval vessels in the area quickly realized what had happened and knew that they had an active, accurate datum based upon the billowing smoke from the sinking Black Point.  What followed was a short and violent prosecution of the submarine.  The end came off the coast of Block Island as verified by the oil and debris which floated to the surface.  Later findings would verify the submarine to be U-853, a Type IXC/40 long-range submarine.

            As the United States and Germany are among the nations who recognize that sunken military wrecks with military personnel entombed as war graves, the story might have ended there.  Unfortunately, salvage companies and recreational scuba divers did not subscribe to the same belief and, over time, looted the submarine, taking various items as souvenirs.  Two such items taken were the bronze propellers.  Over time, the propellers ended up at Newport’s Castle Hill Inn where they remained for over fifty years shrouded by local myths.
            In 2005, the German Government took the initiative by donating the propellers to the United States Navy for display on the grounds of the Naval War College. The Newport Harbor Corporation relinquished “all claims of ownership, or any other title or interest, in the two propellers.” The gift was formally accepted by the United States Navy in September 2005 with the intent that the Naval War College would display them as a part of a dignified exhibit recounting the shared naval history of the Germany and the United States.
            The project has come to fruition through the support of the Naval War College Foundation with the assistance of William Obenshain, and the generosity of the Tawani Foundation of Chicago .  The permanent display has been installed just north of the USS Constellation’s anchor, which is the centerpiece of the plaza dedicated to Esau Kempenaar for his long-term service in the cause of international friendship and his association with the foreign officers of the Naval Command College. 
            As Abraham Lincoln noted, “Honor to the Soldier, and Sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country’s cause.”  The Naval War College also recognizes that there is a mutual bond between all who sail in harm’s way at sea. 

John Kennedy
Director of Education and Community Outreach

Whipple's Davis Quadrant Comes Home

Abraham Whipple was born in 1733 near Providence, Rhode Island.  He went to sea and, over time, became one of the key ship captains for Moses and John Brown.  During the French and Indian War (1754-1763) he became a privateer and captured over 23 French vessels. 

As the colonist became increasingly rebellious against the imposition of taxes to pay for the defense of the colonies by the British, the British became more adamant in their enforcement of anti-smuggling laws and collecting taxes.  Violence was becoming more commonplace.  In Narragansett Bay, on June 9, 1772, the HMS Gaspee, a ship conducting anti-smuggling operations, grounded while chasing the Hannah.  Seeing the ship aground, Abraham Whipple and John Brown led a group of men in the capture of the Gaspee.  They captured the vessel, looted it, and then set it on fire.
With the coming of the Revolutionary War, Whipple was appointed commodore by the Rhode Island General Assembly and given command of the sloop KatyKaty would be re-named Providence when taken into the Continental Navy.  Whipple was an active captain and aggressively engaged the enemy.  Ultimately, he was captured following the surrender of Charleston, SC, in May 1780 and would have no further part in the war. 

Abraham Whipple is honored to this day in Rhode Island with every town having a Whipple Street, a park, or a road.  Naval Station Newport has one such example.  Additionally, the capture of the HMS Gaspee is celebrated annually in the state of Rhode Island during the Gaspee Days Celebration.
There have been three ships to bear the name USS Whipple in the U.S. Navy.  The first two were destroyers, DD-15 and DD-217, but the most recent was the Knox-class fast frigate, USS Whipple (FF-1062).  When she was commissioned on 22 August 1970, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Abraham Whipple donated a Davis Quadrant, or backstaff, to the ship.  The instrument had been manufactured for Abraham Whipple in 1758 by ­­­­­Benjamin King, a marine instrument maker in Newport, Rhode Island.  The Davis Quadrant stayed with the ship until she was decommissioned in 1992.  The latest Whipple was struck from the Naval Vessel Register in 1995 and subsequently given to the Mexican Navy and where she continues to serve under the name ARM Mina (F-214).  

But, what became of the Davis Quadrant and, for that matter, what is a Davis Quadrant?

The basic quadrant was quite simple to use and required only that you sight on one edge the celestial body that you sought, usually the sun or Polaris, the North Star.  Hanging down from the top of the instrument would be a piece of rope with a weighted object on the other end.  Where the line crossed the scale would provide you with the angular height of that body.  Once you had the height you could then determine your latitude while at sea.  That fact along with the latitude of the port that you were seeking would enable you to proceed to your destination.  Using such an instrument with the sun, however, forced the user to look into direct sunlight, causing eye damage over time.  The first documented use of the navigational quadrant was around 1400, although its use is considered to be earlier. 

In approximately 1590, an Englishman named John Davis created an instrument that became known as the backstaff or the Davis Quadrant.  The instrument allowed the user to have his back to the sun, hence the name.  This became the instrument of choice by navigators and, with its acceptance, replaced the cross staff, astrolabe, and quadrant, thereby saving the sight of many navigators.  The Davis Quadrant would be the standard instrument for the next 200 years.

Abraham Whipple’s Davis Quadrant, following its association with the last Whipple, was given to the Navy History and Heritage Command (NHHC) and placed in storage at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.  There it sat until recently discovered by the staff of the Naval War College Museum.  Once re-discovered, the instrument was materially conserved by NHHC and shipped to the Naval War College Museum where it is now on display in the updated Whipple exhibit.

John Kennedy
Director of Museum Education and Community Outreach

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Assessing the Strategic Impact of the Doolittle Raid

73 years ago today, sixteen B-25 medium bombers took off from USS Hornet (CV-8) to conduct the first American attack on Japan during World War II. Two weeks after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt asked the Chiefs of Staff to come up with a plan for attacking Tokyo directly in order to demonstrate to the American public that the U.S. was capable of carrying the war to Japan. Captain Francis Low, Assistant Chief of Staff for anti-submarine warfare, is credited with conceiving the idea for the raid. Lieutenant General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, the head of the U.S. Army Air Forces, selected Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle to lead the raid. Doolittle was one of the most experienced military pilots in the country and had already won two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
Model of USS Hornet (click to enlarge)
Builder unknown
Naval War College Museum Collection
Doolittle’s crews received three weeks of specialized training for the mission at Eglin Field and Wagner Field in Florida. Upon completion, they flew to California and met up with Hornet at Naval Air Station (NAS) Alameda. Task Force 18 departed Alameda on April 2 and rendezvoused with Task Force 16, centered on USS Enterprise (CV-6), before proceeding to the western Pacific. The raid launched ahead of schedule on the morning of April 18 after a Japanese patrol boat spotted the American task force. Concerned that they would lose the element of surprise, Doolittle’s men took off and flew the 650 nautical miles to Japan. Their targets included factories, industrial centers, shore facilities, and naval shipyards. After dropping their bombs, each aircraft made its way to friendly territory as best it could. Some made it to China, others crashed in the ocean, and one landed in the Soviet Union.

B-25s on board USS Hornet. Immediately to the left is USS Gwin (DD-433)
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Historians who have analyzed the raid agree that while it caused little material damage to Japan, it was more important as a boost to American morale. In fact, many articles about the raid quote an official report from the Naval War College that asserted there was “no serious strategical reason” for the raid. What was this report and why was it written?

Anyone familiar with today’s U.S. military knows how much emphasis is placed on conducting and studying after action reviews (AARs). Their purpose is to capture lessons learned in combat so that future commanders can benefit from hard-won experience. In 1946, Chief of Naval Operations FADM Chester W. Nimitz ordered the Naval War College to conduct a series of studies on major World War II naval battles that were essentially in-depth AARs.

ADM Raymond A. Spruance, President of the Naval War College, assigned Commodore Richard W. Bates to conduct these studies. Bates had graduated from the Naval War College senior class in 1941 and returned to teach strategy from 1941-1943. From 1943-1945, he served in a number of combat assignments in the Pacific and was present at the battles of Surigao Strait, Lingayen Gulf, Luzon, and Okinawa. Bates now headed up the project that became known as the World War II Battle Evaluation Group. This group produced studies on the Coral Sea, Midway, Savo Island, as well as a multi-volume report on Leyte Gulf.

RADM Richard W. Bates, USN (Ret.)
Oil on canvas
Anthony Sarro, 1971
Naval War College Museum Collection
Although the Doolittle Raid was not the subject of its own study, Bates discussed it in the introduction to the report on the Battle of the Coral Sea. He noted that the prevailing view of the raid was that it succeeded in bolstering civilian morale even if the material damage caused was slight. He quoted the Office of Naval Intelligence report from 1943 which contained this observation: “Air bombing of Tokyo and the other Japanese centers of war industry on April 18th, while cheering, was only a nuisance raid.” Bates also cited Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King’s assessment that the raid’s most important effect was to lift Allied spirits after the surrender of American and Filipino forces on the Bataan Peninsula.

Recent authors of popular histories about World War II have used Bates’ observation that the raid had “no serious strategical reason” to suggest that the Naval War College found the raid to be of little consequence.[1] However, this interpretation is not supported by the rest of the report. Bates argued that even though the raid was launched without a defined strategic purpose, it actually did have tangible and serious effects on the future course of the war. The raid hit Tokyo while Japanese war planners were meeting to discuss future operations. Up until this point, their armed forces had enjoyed one success after another. The appearance of American bombers over the home islands created enormous pressure to ensure that such an attack was not repeated. As a result, the high command identified a list of new objectives that included the Solomon Islands, Port Moresby, the Aleutians, and Midway Island. They also moved up the timetable for the operation against Midway. This decision ensured that two carriers damaged at Coral Sea, Zuikaku and Shokaku, could not participate, thus depriving the Japanese of about 140 additional aircraft in the crucial battle of the Pacific war. Bates pointed out that the raid had negative strategic consequences for the U.S. as well. The two carriers that participated in the raid, Hornet and Enterprise, returned to Pearl Harbor and were on their way to reinforce USS Lexington (CV-2) and USS Yorktown (CV-5) during the first week of May. They failed to rendezvous in time to take part in the Battle of the Coral Sea, leaving historians to wonder how the American fleet would have fared had it enjoyed a 2:1 advantage in carriers at that action rather than equaling the Japanese force.

The Naval War College is well known for the role it played in formulating U.S. plans for the war against Japan. But the College’s impact on planning did not end once the war started. The World War II Battle Evaluation Group is a good example of how the College analyzed the results of naval operations to determine whether or not strategies conceived in peace time proved sound. In the case of the Doolittle Raid, Bates and his team found that the lack of a specific strategic goal did not stop the attack from having an adverse effect on Japanese decision making, thus aiding the American war effort.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum

[1] See, for example, Mike Wright, What They Didn’t Teach You About World War II (Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1998), 277; James Arnold and Robert Hargis, US Commanders of World War II (1) (Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2002), 49.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Artifact Spotlight: USS Hartford

USS Hartford
Built by Mr. Keith Ward Reynolds
Gift of Mrs. Jayne Mayntz

We’ve been very fortunate to add several beautiful wooden ship models to our collection in recent months. Among them is this 3 ½ foot-long model of USS Hartford, a ship most famous for its role as the flagship of the Union fleet at the Battle of Mobile Bay, but which also has a connection to Newport and the Naval Training Station.

click to enlarge
Hartford was launched on November 22, 1858 at the Boston Navy Yard. She was built as a sloop-of-war, meaning that she mounted all guns on a single deck and carried square-rigged sails. Her armament consisted of two 12-pounders, two 20-pounder Parrott rifles, and twenty 9-inch smoothbore Dahlgrens. Following her commissioning on May 27, 1859, Hartford became the flagship for the East India Squadron and sailed to the Far East on a diplomatic mission.

click to enlarge

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Hartford returned home to Philadelphia where she was readied for wartime service. One week after Confederate forces fired on Ft. Sumter, President Lincoln directed the U.S. Navy to establish a blockade of all states that seceded from the Union. The plan was for the Navy to starve the South of the resources necessary to fight the war while the Army brought about a decisive battle on land. To that end, the Navy divided up the Confederate coastline and assigned responsibility for each section to an independent squadron. In January 1862, Hartford became the flagship for the West Gulf Blockading Squadron under the command of Flag Officer David G. Farragut. His area of responsibility began at the mouth of the Mississippi River and ran west to the Rio Grande.

Before Mobile Bay, Hartford participated in two other decisive actions of the war. From April 18 to May 1, 1862, the West Gulf Blockading Squadron fought its way past two forts on the Mississippi as well as a collection of ironclads, fire rafts, and river steamers to reach the city of New Orleans. With the closure of that city’s port facilities, the Confederacy lost the use of the Mississippi River as a conduit for overseas trade. That left Vicksburg as the last significant river port remaining in southern hands. The high bluffs overlooking the river gave the Confederate gunners there a distinct advantage. They could fire plunging shot down on enemy ships as they passed, while Union naval crews could not elevate their guns high enough to fire back. Farragut’s ships worked to isolate Vicksburg and helped ferry General Ulysses S. Grant’s army over the Mississippi in order to attack the defensive works from the rear. Vicksburg finally fell on July 4, 1863.

Map of the Battle of Mobile Bay (click to enlarge)
Courtesy of  Civil War Preservation Trust
On August 5, 1864, Farragut once again took Hartford into battle, this time at Mobile Bay. Just as at New Orleans, he faced a combination of coastal fortifications supported by a small flotilla of enemy ships. Chief among them was the ironclad CSS Tennessee. The rebel commander, Franklin Buchanan, had been the first Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy when it opened in 1845. He commanded CSS Virginia until just before its historic battle with USS Monitor and was subsequently promoted to full admiral, the only officer in the Confederate navy to achieve that rank. Farragut was a rear admiral at the time of the battle.

The attack got underway early in the morning with the Union vessels advancing in two columns. Farragut’s ironclad monitors sailed closer to Fort Morgan, the larger of the two shore defenses, in order to screen the wooden warships in the second column. As the lead ironclad, Tecumseh, entered the bay, Tennessee appeared out of the morning mist. Tecumseh’s captain turned to intercept the Confederate ironclad, but the new course took his ship directly into a minefield. Tecumseh struck a torpedo (as floating mines were called then) and sank by the bow in less than thirty seconds. Brooklyn, the ship directly ahead of Hartford, slowed to a halt while her captain signaled to Farragut asking for instructions. It was at this moment that Farragut supposedly gave his famous order, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” His actual words have been lost to history, though most eyewitnesses stated that he said something to that effect. More importantly, the rest of his ships passed by the forts and negotiated the minefield without suffering any critical damage.
With Hartford now in the lead, Tennessee turned to attack the head of the Federal line. Her slow speed greatly hindered Buchanan’s attempts to ram the Union ships, and he decided to withdraw after realizing that he could not outmaneuver his opponents. Buchanan pulled away to inspect his ship for damage and feed his crew. Having satisfied himself that Tennessee was still capable of fighting, he once again turned to engage. Hartford and Tennessee steamed for each other on opposite courses and passed port-to-port at point blank range. Having withstood Hartford’s broadsides, Tennessee now found herself surrounded by the rest of the Union fleet. A hail of incoming shot destroyed her funnel, severed her steering chains, and severely wounded Buchanan, forcing him to turn over command of Tennessee to his flag captain. Unable to steer or raise steam, Tennesse bowed to the inevitable and surrendered. When the garrison of Ft. Morgan finally capitulated on August 23, Mobile Bay was firmly in Union hands and remained so for the rest of the war.

An August Morning with Farragut; the Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864
William Heysham Overend English
Oil on canvas
Wadsworth Athaneum

Hartford survived the war and became the flagship for the newly-formed Asiatic Squadron in July 1865. After transferring to the North Atlantic Squadron in 1875, two of her enlisted crew members earned the Medal of Honor the following year for rescuing drowning shipmates. Hartford’s captain at that time was an officer well known to anyone familiar with the history of the Naval War College – Stephen B. Luce. While in command of Hartford, Luce argued for reform within the Navy and championed the establishment of an advanced school for officers. His ideas eventually bore fruit with the founding of the College in 1884. Hartford went on to serve as a training ship for apprentice seamen, another program begun as a result of Luce’s efforts.

Captain Stephen B. Luce (seated on the right) aboard USS Hartford
Courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command

This beautifully detailed model of Hartford arrived last month courtesy of Mrs. Jane Mayntz. Her father, Mr. Keith Ward Reynolds, built the model over two decades beginning in the 1930s. Financial hardship brought about by the Great Depression forced him to improvise with some of the building materials. One example is the copper plating on the hull which was made from a toilet bowl float! We are fortunate that Mr. Reynolds persevered for so many years to finish the Hartford and are grateful to Mrs. Mayntz for donating it to the museum.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum